Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Other Side to "Monuments Men"

'Spoils of war'?
Though stories of art looting during World War II invariably focus on Nazi plunder, German and American officials say thousands of works, among them masterpieces by Dürer, Cranach and Hals, crossed the Atlantic in footlockers and mail parcels in the 1940s. Very few have trickled back. The thefts from German castles and storage vaults in no way match the scale of Nazi looting, and were undertaken by men who had witnessed the bloody toll of German aggression. But few suggest American soldiers were confused about the rules of war. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had issued strict directives forbidding such thefts. “Yes, they were suffering and losing buddies,” said Robert M. Edsel, chairman of the board of the foundation, which chronicles and promotes the return of art stolen during World War II. “But they knew what they did was wrong.” [...] “We just have to hope the heirs will come forward now that they’re discovering these things as the veterans die off,” he said.
Tom Mashberg, 'Returning the Spoils of World War II, Taken by Americans' New York Times, May 5th 2015.

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